A book I'm reading in December

The Discerning Heart: The Developmental Psychology of Robert Keagan, by Philip M. Lewis

This book is undoubtedly on a compelling topic - our personality and perception of the world. Who wouldn'd want to get a better grasp on it?

The book argues that we can become more wiser in the course of our lives in the matter of how we perceive our experiences and relationships. To quote the book:

It will put your experience of living in the world in motion and, I hope, make you both more discerning and thereby more vulnerable to our very human struggle of making sense of our lives.

Keagan is a man who doesn't believe that we are so much affected by our uncontiousness, as many other psychologists dearly believe, nor is he inclined to ''blame'' our behavior on the environment. He has a third approach, his ideas are based on psychologist Jean Piaget's constructive developmental theory.

Let's see the theory closer now, dissect it a bit. ''Constructive'' means that we are not passive bystanders of our lives but that we actively construct different circumstances and information into a meaningful whole. And then we act and respond according to those inner constructions. We build our own subjective reality rather than respond to an objective one. That is why people respond so differently in even very similar situations. And what is really intriguing, is that we of course ''forget'' that our way of seeing is not the objective reality.

The constructive view reminds us that no one lives in the same reality, and if we want to communicate effectively with others, we need to keep this in mind.

It doedn't mean though that we should start thinking that people are different and that is it. Here comes into play the ''developmental'' part of the theory. Keagan and Piaget discovered that there is only a limited number of ways how to construct one's reality - although immensely complex ways, still limited. And they differ from one another by the way they organize our experiences. They also are successive to each other, meaning that every following stage builds upon the devellopmentally simpler and earlier one.

Keagan offers 6 stages of perspective to describe how people on different developmental points operate.

On stage 0 there is an infant who doesn't yet make the difference between outer and inner, who doesn't yet have a perspective of his own.

Every phase goes a little more complex. A toddler of age 3-4 is stage 1. She trusts her immediate sensory perception, so you can play her tricks that she will fall into every single time. A 7-8 year olds reaction is already more compound - stage 2, meaning that he can hold not only one perspective but two. If a simple trick (like pouring same amount of water into two different glasses and asking which one has more) is performed to him more than once, he gets it - he doesn't only think that what his eyes see is true but he is also able to reason about it. Nevertheless he can only hold one perspective at a time (but he can change between them).

And this is where the next level comes in with the ability of holding two percpectives simultaneously. That's where the theory really gets going.

Until the next time!